The group stage of ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals concluded on June 20, which revealed the list of six teams that earned their spot in the playoffs and the 10 teams that were sent home, hoping for better luck in Season 10 Finals, which are set to take place in December of 2019.

The opening two days of ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, during which the group stage started and ended, provided us with action-packed games, which did not lack impressive comebacks, upset wins and dominant performances from the best CS:GO teams in the world. With too many noteworthy moments to count, let’s instead focus on how the road to the playoffs looked like for the top two teams in the world; Team Liquid and Astralis.

Team Liquid crawling their way to the playoffs

Currently the No. 1 team in the world, Team Liquid entered ESL Finals as favorites to win it all, which should not come as a surprise considering the incredible results the North American team has achieved in the recent tournaments. With high expectations from their fans and the world, Team Liquid entered Round 1, where they were to face off against the Danish team North, who were considered underdogs facing off against the NA powerhouse.

But even underdogs can bite, and sometimes they can bite hard. The pressure on Team Liquid combined with an exceptional performance from North resulted in an upset 16-13 win for North, who edged out Team Liquid, proving to the world even the best can be beaten.

Failing to prove themselves in the upper bracket, Team Liquid headed to lower bracket, where they cruised through the three matches against TYLOO (2-0), HellRaisers (2-1) and MIBR (2-0) to secure a playoff spot and regain some pride prior to the final stage of the tournament.

Astralis look to grab the title, reclaim No. 1 spot

Former No. 1 team and still widely considered to be the best team in the world, Astralis, entered the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals with a lot to prove after less than impressive results behind them. Having fallen from grace in the world rankings, Astralis came into the tournaments with only one goal in mind, which was to win it all, as anything less would be considered yet another failure for the struggling Danes.

Making light work of DATONA in the first round (8-16), followed by an impressive 16-7 win on both maps against HellRaisers, Astralis guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs; however, they still had to face off against NRG for a direct promotion into the semifinals.

Astralis enter the playoffs with heavy bruises

Entering the group stage finals hungry to continue their impressive run, Astralis soon realized they had found their match. After a strong start, which put got them into a 6-10 lead on the first map, the Danes seemingly let down their guard, allowing NRG to not only to catch up to them but to deliver a fatal blow in the second half, winning the 1st map 16-13.

Following a disastrous performance on Train, Astralis entered Nuke with all guns blazing. Proving their quality once more, they took down NRG in humiliating fashion, winning the map 8-16, which sent the finals into the third map, Dust II.

The momentum of the game once again shifted in favor of the North American team who, with the help of Tarik “tarik” Celik’s incredible performance managed to walk away from the first half in a slight lead (9-6) ahead of Astralis. With momentum on their side, NRG managed to penetrate Astralis’ defenses and proceeded to win three more rounds, getting themselves in a comfortable 12-6 lead.

In the end, it seemed like NRG were a bit too comfortable as they let 5 round slip out of their hands, giving Astralis a fighting chance to catch up and win the decisive map (13-12). Seeing how fast the Danes were approaching, NRG managed to pick up where they left off and wrapped up the finals with a string of three consecutive wins, finishing the finals 16-12 and winning the series 2-1.

Playoffs on the horizon

With group stages behind us, the six qualified teams are getting ready for their final tests that will start on June 21. The teams and pairs for the quarterfinals and semifinals are already revealed and look as follows:

June 21

FaZe Clan v G2 Esports

Astralis v Team Liquid

June 22

NRG v Winner of group 1

mousesports v Winner of group 2